THE KINGDOM WHERE NOBODY DIES
by Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2008
hard cover,316 pages
The author of this novel has a strong background in rural America, particularly in the Upper Midwest. It shows in many of the nuances that affect the progress of this story. The novel is replete with icons of small towns, some of which are isolated from the mainstream.
The book is set in the tiny Upper Peninsula Michigan town of St. Adele where once again we ride along with one of the most reluctant and phlegmatic lawmen we are likely ever to encounter. His name is John McIntyre and he is the town constable. He didn't want the job in the first place and he can think of a hundred things he'd rather be doing and places he'd rather be than the sun-blasted hay field of former conscientious objector, Ruben Hofer.
Hofer has been murdered, that's plain to see. His head was blasted open by a rifle shot while he sat on his tractor raking hay. It is almost immediately clear that the man's family is one likely source of murderous intent. Hofer was not a nice man. He drove his two teen-aged sons in cruel and oppressive ways; and his eleven-year-old daughter, Claire, has already been pushed to warped and dangerous attitudes about life. His wife is morbidly over-weight and only the youngster, Joey, constantly playing with his make-believe farm in the yard outside the kitchen of the school-house-turned-family-home, seems almost normal.
Author Hills continues to invest her stories with an array of intriguing characters although I got a little tired of the sheriff's on-again-off-again almost incompetent investigation. Moreover, the two teen-agers do not become distinct characters in this book until very late, which I found to be a weakness.
Nevertheless, the story is informed by very real human emotions and conflicts and the author's handling of the religious, political and historical elements of the book tell us she has done careful research. The book is, as is true of all her books, well-written.
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